First published in 1953, Pen and Sword's edition of Airey Neave's ultimate Second World War escape memoir is a must for any student of history or military enthusiast, but before I delve into the book itself I must comment on its format.
Measuring a practical 16 cm x 23.5 cm in size with a flexible resilient paperback cover, the book is importantly not too heavy, making for excellent reading next to the pool or on a journey, or indeed anywhere.
The cover is well designed appealing to a new generation, as well as older. The book itself reads very much like a thriller novel and immediately draws you in, leading you from the shattered remnants of the British Expeditionary Force at Calais to the impregnability of Colditz castle, and beyond. We not only share Neave's experiences but get a glimpse into his psyche.
This is no ordinary escape memoir, for Neave was no ordinary escaper. The author relates his account through a mix of narrative and flashback, supplemented by excellent images and illustrations. His thoughts help to build a picture of this man and the circumstances he found himself in, not to mention providing a unique and rare insight into the key defendants at the Nuremberg Trials, from a fellow prisoners point of view.
Aside from the main story, what I found especially interesting was the ingenuity and resourcefulness of Neave's fellow prisoners, for without whom such escapes would have been impossible. In particular how escape aids and uniforms were fashioned, sometimes leading to humorous consequences.
They have their exits is definitely worth reading, and reading over and again. Sometimes humorous, the story is one of human resourcefulness, endurance and determination, which brings the author, as well as the reader full circle. If you only manage to pack one book this summer, make it this one.